Gun Violence: There’s No Smoking Gun or Silver Bullet

I did not grow up with a gun in the house and unlike many friends and colleagues, I don’t use a weapon in my profession or for that matter, personal protection. My first experience shooting a gun was a few years ago. Truth be told, the fear and anxiety I felt at that moment was not only one I could feel, but one I could hear. From the moment I walked into the range and with every shot heard initially, my face grew hotter, my heartbeat increased and my blood pressure rose. Guns, in my personal narrative, were unnecessary and dangerous.

My narrative continued into adulthood. After Columbine and after Sandy Hook with 20 more children dead, I was still more afraid of an accident with a gun than I was about their deliberate use. The new norm and reality had not set in. Two weeks ago, a good friend and colleague over at @homesec360 wrote an excellent article on preparedness during an active shooter incident. In that article, Steve highlighted an upward trend in events, an average of 11.4 active shooter incidents a year and this didn’t include the number of deaths outside of active shooter incidents. In combination with one last event I will share shortly, it sparked in me the desire to start a real discussion and to better understand the issues. So here goes…

Gun Control: “Guns and the lack of gun control measures are the reason for the violence.” No matter the motivation of the individual or the context of the incident, there is always a voice that brings it back to gun control. There appears to be some validity to the argument. Private dealers in most states are able to sell to individuals without conducting a background check, but while guns in the hands of the wrong people are a part of the problem, doesn’t the intent and motivation of the individual also matter in the equation?

Individual Liberty: “Our forefathers gave us the right to bear arms,” the mantra of the 2nd amendment camp. “People kill people, guns don’t kill people.” Counter arguments prevail — armed citizens cannot protect due to lack of training, a well-trained militia is meant for a different time. But as individuals, doesn’t the ability to protect our own property, rights, and our families fall to us? As Americans in the purest sense, isn’t our own self-reliance paramount to our national narrative and identity?

Mental Health: This is a very quiet camp in my opinion that focuses on mental health issues and a lack of available care. I don’t have much on this one, I admit, but what I can say is we live in a world where privacy trumps public safety and security in all aspects of security. I recently filled out 20 forms for 3 different doctors, with all of the same information. None of which will ever be share shared across health care providers or for that matter any entity outside of the immediate office. Does this not present a risk to my own medical care, let alone sharing the information seamlessly for those who don’t have the capacity to decide for themselves? Do the rights of individual patients trump the rights of others endangered by them?

Media/Values/Society: This is the catchall bucket, but I’ve listened to discussions within my network and within the media. Have we simply become a more violent society? Does the media glorify the shooter over the victims?

This is just an attempt to understand and delineate the issues — not to become an expert in mental health or gun laws — but an attempt to start a raw and comprehensive discussion, because without one, I believe we are ultimately at a loss. As a society we need to deal with violence, crime, racism, economic disparity, social welfare, public safety, national security, homeland security, etc.

There is no smoking gun or silver bullet, but without a raw discussion, I ask you, what gets lost?

And so… what was the other event that sparked my need to understand? On October 9, John McCain, in response to the shooting at Northern Arizona University, stated, “My thoughts and prayers are with families of the person who was killed and the three others who were wounded in the horrific shooting on the campus of Northern Arizona University…” For a few days after that I thought about that statement and those who had been killed that day and incidents before. I admit I can’t remember the names of the victims, but I can remember the perpetrators. Dylan Roof, Adam Lanza, Dylan Kliebold… I can see their faces at the same time as I see the politicians and personalities alike calling for one immediate fix or the other.

A few days later, a new face was introduced. One I don’t want to forget. I was scrolling through Facebook and stopped suddenly at an image. The picture had been now published widely, but I didn’t know that. It was on my timeline for a different reason — the face on my page was Colin Brough. I knew Colin’s mom when I was a child. The relationship is hard to explain, but in the Irish Catholic family in which I grew up, she was family and so was he, regardless of bloodlines. In an instant, Senator McCain’s words of “…the families of the person who was killed…” took on a completely different meaning. I was family. Perhaps it’s time for us all to be. #liveforcolin

Dominique Tarpey is a transportation security manager with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. You can follow her on Twitter: @ExploreTheSeams.

She is part of The White Hat Syndicate, a Medium account launched on October 26 that aims to publish thought-provoking articles about cutting-edge homeland security topics. The six authors come from a diverse array of professional and personal backgrounds: legal, fire, environmental health, federal transportation security, and law enforcement.

The Syndicate invites you to engage us in conversation, either here on Medium or via Twitter. We look forward to the discussion.

The opinions and ideas expressed in this article are that of the author alone, and although a current employee of DHS and the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, the ideas represented above are not those of TSA, DHS, or the United States government.